Solskjaer hopes Ferguson presence can inspire Man Utd squad to 'take next step'

By Sports Desk May 25, 2021

Ole Gunnar Solskjaer hopes the presence of Sir Alex Ferguson will help inspire his Manchester United players to "take the next step" by winning the Europa League.

Legendary former manager Ferguson, who won 38 trophies in 26 years at Old Trafford, has travelled with the United squad to Gdansk ahead of Wednesday's final with Villarreal 

The Red Devils face Spanish side Villarreal seeking their first silverware since Solskjaer took over from Jose Mourinho in December 2018, initially on a caretaker basis.

It also marks just Solskjaer's second final as a manager, having won the 2013 Norwegian Cup with Molde, where he also lifted the Tippeligaen in 2011 and 2012.

After ending his curse of losing in four cup semi-finals as United boss, Solskjaer believes a first trophy for his current crop of players can be a springboard for further success.

"Of course, when players get the taste of success, it can go one of two ways," Solskjaer said at Tuesday's pre-match news conference. 

"Now we've done it, or how I felt before, it gives you that feeling of being hungry for more. You want that feeling again. 

"For this group, working hard for a year or two, it's a next step for them now to go and enjoy a game like this.

"These are big nights for us. It might be the stepping stone for something better to come. This team is a young team, a team that we've rebuilt. 

"Hopefully this is the start of something more. Sir Alex is with us, the 26th of May is Sir Matt [Busby]'s birthday. 

"When the players sign for Manchester United, they sign to win, to accept the challenge of being the best. 

"This is the best club of the world, this is the pleasure of the pressure. They wouldn't have signed if they weren't top players."

Asked about Ferguson's role in United's preparations, Solskjaer said: "He flew out with us yesterday. Some of us went to see his documentary.

"I sat there thinking about this special man. He's an encyclopaedia of football. When we eat in the restaurant, if the players wonder about something, they can ask him. 

"He's always available. I hope he's going to enjoy it as well. I owe most of my career to him and this club."

Wednesday's match will be United's eighth major European final, which is the second-most of any English club after Liverpool (14).

United, who have won five of those previous seven finals, are expected to be without key man Harry Maguire against Villarreal as the defender continues to nurse an ankle injury.

Maguire was included in United's squad, despite missing his side's final four league games of the season, but Solskjaer is not overly confident the centre-back will be ready to feature.

"We've prepared well," Solskjaer said. "Anthony [Martial] didn't make it, Phil [Jones] of course didn't make it and Harry is just probably going to jog up and down the sideline [in training].

"He'll probably try to join in the training session a little but apart from that we're looking quite good.

"It's always difficult to leave players out. But throughout the whole season, a final is a reward for what you've done the whole season.

"We'll enjoy the last training session and the players will learn the team tomorrow."

United rounded off their Premier League campaign with a 2-1 win at Wolves to finish in second place, 12 points behind runaway champions Manchester City.

Solskjaer is pleased with the progress made season-on-season and insists his players will be ready for the huge showdown with Unai Emery's Villarreal.

"I've got enough self-belief in myself, whatever circumstances I've been in," he said.  "I trust in the players, who I know are ready. I've seen in them something growing.

"I'm confident that we're ready for this now. Every player who goes into a final has the pressure to win. You have to play to win, we expect to win, but I'm sure Unai feels the same. 

"It's been a long qualification to get here and it's 50-50. I feel confident that we are ready for this. In a final, anything can happen and we have to be ready for everything."

United are facing Villarreal for a fifth time, with each of the previous four meetings – all in the Champions League between 2005-06 and 2008-09 – finishing goalless 

The Red Devils have faced Villarreal more times without ever scoring than they have any other opponent in their history.

Related items

  • Napoli complete deals for Zambo Anguissa and Olivera Napoli complete deals for Zambo Anguissa and Olivera

    Napoli announced two signings on Thursday, confirming midfielder Andre-Frank Zambo Anguissa from Fulham on a permanent deal and the arrival of Mathias Olivera from Getafe.

    The Cameroon international spent this season on loan at the Stadio Diego Armando Maradona, and Napoli have taken up the option to make the move permanent for an undisclosed fee.

    Zambo Anguissa joined Fulham from Marseille in 2018, making 66 appearances in all for the Cottagers.

    He made 25 appearances for Luciano Spalletti's side in Serie A this season, recording two assists.

    The Italian club also confirmed the signing of Olivera from Getafe, with the Uruguayan left-back having made 119 appearances during five seasons in Spain.

  • French Open: Swiatek not keeping track of outstanding 30-match winning run French Open: Swiatek not keeping track of outstanding 30-match winning run

    Only the understandable media attention is allowing Iga Swiatek to keep count of her incredible winning run that reached 30 matches on Thursday.

    The world number one sealed her place in the third round of the French Open after a dominant 6-0 6-2 win against Alison Riske.

    That victory made her just the fourth WTA Tour player this century to win 30 or more consecutive matches. She has also taken 46 of the past 47 sets she has played.

    Speaking at a news conference following her milestone win, Swiatek insisted she does not follow the numbers – although she has no need to while her streak remains the focus of journalists.

    "I know how many matches I have won in a row because you keep reminding me, basically," she said. "But I don't keep track.

    "I'm not like noting or something. I just try to come back to these matches to get experience from them. But that's the only reason why I come back to them."

    Swiatek was asked to explain what had inspired her imperious form, with her 39 match victories in 2022 already three more than she managed in the whole of 2021.

    "I think basically I changed some things, like I started being more aggressive and trying to be more proactive on court," she replied. "That's something that my coach really helped me to do.

    "But also, I think all the work we have been doing, even last season, it finally clicked somehow.

    "You know, last season it was a year for me where I really gained so much experience. This year I feel like I'm using it the right way. I have this experience already, and I can just move forward.

    "So I think it's the physical work I have been doing but also with my psychologist, I think it's the work of the whole team as well. I'm pretty glad that it clicks right now."

    The 20-year-old conceded her form will not last forever, but she is determined to enjoy it while it lasts.

    "I was saying from the beginning that for sure I'm going to reach a point where I'm going to lose a match, and it's pretty normal, you know," Swiatek said. "I have been losing matches in tennis for a long time.

    "For sure, the things we are doing right now are pretty extraordinary, but I know in tennis that only one person wins at the end. I will be okay with that.

    "For sure, it's not fun to lose, but I think it wouldn't be different than any other loss that I had in my career."

  • Leeds strike deal for Salzburg's USMNT star Brenden Aaronson as Marsch brings in familiar face Leeds strike deal for Salzburg's USMNT star Brenden Aaronson as Marsch brings in familiar face

    Leeds United have agreed a deal to sign Salzburg's Brenden Aaronson after Jesse Marsch swooped on his former club for the United States midfielder.

    Reports have indicated Aaronson will cost Leeds in the region of £24.7million (€29m) when the transfer officially goes through on July 1.

    He has committed to a five-year contract and will strengthen the Leeds midfield after the Premier League side avoided relegation on the final day of the season thanks to a win at Brentford.

    Former Philadelphia Union player Aaronson, 21, has earned 18 caps for the USA and scored five goals for his country.

    He joined Salzburg in January 2021, fresh from being named in the MLS Best XI for the previous season, and had a key role as head coach Marsch's team wrapped up a Bundesliga and cup double.

    While Marsch moved on to RB Leipzig at the end of that season and later arrived at Leeds, Aaronson stayed on in Salzburg and helped Matthias Jaissle's side reach the last-16 stage of the Champions League.

    Salzburg also landed another domestic double, and Aaronson believes the time has come to move on to bigger things.

    He told Salzburg's website: "I can barely believe that it was only a year and a half I spent playing for FC Red Bull Salzburg.

    "This big step from my homeland in the US to Europe was made an extremely easy one by everyone at the club, from the players, coaches and all the staff, and I had a fantastic time here. To come to Salzburg was totally the best decision I could have made!

    "After our strong performance in the Champions League and winning the double, it's the perfect time for me now to move to a new and really big league."

© 2022 SportsMaxTV All Rights Reserved.